Man With The White Beard: A Journey Into Our Nightmares

When Mohammad Akhlakh was lynched in Dadri in 2015 on the suspicion of possessing beef, first in a series of dozens of such lynchings since then, Prof. Shah Alam Khan an Orthopaedics surgen in the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) wrote a short article in The title of the article was arresting “The Color Of Human Flesh!”. In less than hundred words the author brought home the horror of the lynching.

Yes, Shah Alam Khan has a gift with words. His writing is empathetic and moving. He has published dozens of articles in I’m honoured to have published each one of them.

man with the white beardWhen Shah Alam Khan decided to publish a novel, I was excited. When his first novel “Man With The White Beard”  came out I ordered the book immediately.  The book is an emotional roller coaster ride. The book takes us through some of the most horrific moments of recent Indian history.

All the characters in the book represent a particular moment in Indian history.   The anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984, the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom and the Kandhamal riot against Christians bear flush and blood in its characters. They all come together under one roof and the novel is a cathartic journey to their past.

As Nitasha Kaul has observed in the blurb of the book, “Reading this novel, it is hard not to reflect about how the dreams of a people transform into the nightmares of a nation.”

The novel is journey to unravel the mystery of Goldy’s recurring dream. In the end as Ms. Kaul observed it becomes the collective nightmare of the nation.

As the nation goes through its recurring nightmares of human carnage, the novelist’s humanity shines through its pages. In page 199 the novelist observes “In the ensuing sixteen hours Anuradha Shah gently wiped away the fear and apprehension that had settled over Khaleda’s very being after 2002, like a layer of fine dust on an unused mirror. She had discovered that love lies underneath the debris of life like a hidden treasure”. The writer’s compassion shines through every line and every word of the book.

The book is as much as a healing touch as an awakening to the horrors of the present day realities of India. A nightmare we are all living!

As we live out this nightmare, the author reminds us that the colour of blood is red and the colour of human flesh is lilac!

Binu Mathew is the editor of He can be reached at [email protected]


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